Heading into the current international break Arsenal lie in third position in the Premier League, 11 points adrift of leaders Leicester City and 6 points behind closest rivals Tottenham Hotspur with a game in hand. The international break has come at the right time both to take the wind out of the sails of Tottenham and Leicester and to enable Arsenal to compose themselves to mount a title challenge.
It is fair to say that 2016 has not been kind to Arsenal so far.
The Gunners only took 5 out of a possible 12 Premier League points in January, 7 out of a possible 12 in February, and only 4 out of 9 in March. Meanwhile Leicester racked up 8 points of a possible 12 in January, 9 of a possible 12 in February and 10 of the 12 available in March, and Tottenham gained 7 out of 12 points in January, a maximum of 12 points in February and 7 of a possible 12 in March.
Whilst expectations of Arsenal winning the league have faded away in recent months, and rightly so given the team performances, it is still reasonable to expect them to finish the season with a strong series of results and the 2-0 victory against Everton is an indicator that the team has what it takes to deliver on these expectations.
Every Arsenal fan is currently hoping that Tottenham and Leicester collapse under the pressure of the closing months of the Premier League campaign. There are similar dreams that Arsenal may have an almost perfect finish to the season. Whilst both of these events actually occurring seems rather unlikely, it is probably that the points gap will be much closer than the present differential come May 15 and the international break will undoubtedly contribute to this.
Leicester have 10 players on international duty while Tottenham also have 14 players playing for their respective countries.
There will undoubtedly be injuries to some of these players over the course of two international fixtures as player fatigue builds. Of course, Arsenal also have absentees due to international duty but it will be injuries to key players such as Vardy, Mahrez, Drinkwater, Kane, Eriksen or Alli which would provide a glimmer of hope for Arsenal fans, providing that they can escape injuries to key players whilst Leicester or Tottenham sustain at least a couple.
It is in these final months that injuries to key players become ever so important as these players are relied upon for securing those crucial points and they are the ones to which the less experienced players will turn should the teams hit a difficult period.
The break in Premier League has equally arrived at a good time because it allows the Arsenal squad to regain their composure before entering a run of fixtures which is largely positive but poses some difficulties with the away trips to West Ham, Manchester City and Sunderland.
Despite this, a vintage Arsenal on their day would be expected to triumph, especially since the expectations of Arsenal winning the league have all but disappeared. Equally, the philosophy will perhaps be a different story at Leicester as nerves creep in and it becomes a difficult task to secure the points needed to win the league.
The next two Premier League games will be crucial following the international break, but if Leicester slip up at all, expect Arsenal to be right there, hopefully refreshed after the break, fighting to claw back some points to make the final few fixtures all the more interesting!